Why Twins might be feeling sense of urgency

August 24th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park's Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Twins are mired in a bad funk right now, having scored only six runs in their four-game series over the weekend against the non-contending Rangers, and things won’t get any easier from here, as they’re primed for consecutive series against the Astros, Giants, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees and Guardians.

In this edition of the Twins Beat Newsletter, we’ll look at an example of how the Twins seem to be feeling the urgency of this stretch of their schedule.

Crunch time

Here’s one philosophy that has been very clear from how manager Rocco Baldelli has used his high-leverage relievers in his four seasons at the helm of the Twins: He doesn’t use those back-end arms during games in which Minnesota is trailing. That is to say, the Twins don’t use their best relievers to keep games close when they’re not ahead.

To fans watching from home, that might make for a somewhat frustrating experience at times -- but it’s also a logical way to use a bullpen in the big picture. When you’re behind late in games, the odds are usually quite stacked against you. Instead, you want to save your best bullpen arms for games in which the Twins lead -- in which case those elite arms will be in control of the outcome of the game, instead of burning them while hoping for help from the offense that might never come.

Baldelli has rarely -- if ever -- strayed from that in seasons past. Which is why it was all the more surprising that he used not one, not two, but three of his high-leverage arms -- Michael Fulmer, Griffin Jax and Caleb Thielbar with the Twins trailing, 2-1, in Monday’s series finale against the Rangers.

“We sent our guys out there, challenged them, and I and the staff and teammates in the clubhouse are going to keep challenging each other until we figure out where we need to be and get the job done,” Baldelli said. “But I feel like we’re right there; we’ve got to just grab it.”

That quote certainly seems indicative of the idea that this was a unique circumstance, one in which the math might not have favored such bullpen usage -- especially with the Twins amid a stretch of games on 13 consecutive days, when they might need to avoid overusing those relievers.

But at the same time, these were far from typical circumstances. The Twins had created opportunities for themselves throughout the series; they just couldn’t cash in, going 2-for-26 with runners in scoring position. They’ve talked about how they’re not entirely sure why the offense is slumping as a whole, and how they might just need a big hit to take matters into their own hands and flip the narrative.

They got a rare chance to do that while playing from behind -- and perhaps we’ll see more as the urgency continues to ratchet up.

“I believe in our offense, and when we have opportunities to do that -- and it isn’t every day -- but when we have opportunities to give guys a chance to come back and win the game, we’re going to do it,” Baldelli said. “And we did that. The guys we brought in out of the bullpen, they threw the ball well. We needed a good at-bat or two to make something happen, and that’s what we’re looking for.”